Caps donned, suits wet and voices raised, Palomar’s women water polo team looked ready to play at a pre-season practice last week.
Coach Kelly Falcone said talented incoming players were already settling into their roles beside more experienced second-year teammates.
The 16-member team, fed by local high schools and known for sending players on to top-notch programs at San Diego State University and other regional schools, met daily for rigorous practices in the month before the fall semester. Team leaders said they hope to carry the same sense of drive and determination that defined the early-morning drills into season play.
“We have people who are really skilled in their positions,” said Kimi Walters, a 19-year-old returning center and team leader. “We’re almost ready to play.”
Walters said her focus in the pool was on doing her best and pumping up her teammates. When one person on the team puts out strong, confident vibes, she said, the other players buckle down and respond.
“I try to be intense,” Walters said. “Your intensity has an effect on other people.”
The team finished third at the seminal Pacific Coast Athletic Conference last year after a late-tourney loss to San Diego Mesa. This year, coaches are pursuing a goals-oriented, hard-work-based approach to training in an effort to improve the team’s offering and take tournaments by storm.
“I have an extremely talented team this year, and we’re starting off the season better than I expected,” Falcone said. “The group of girls this year is really committed, really excited.”
Falcone cited the quick rate of athlete turnover faced by junior-college programs as one obstacle to success in the pool.
“I’m taking talent from six teams and putting them together,” she said, pointing out that new players accustomed to different coaching and playing styles had little time to adjust to her methods.
Success, Falcone said, will rest entirely on how well the players “mesh.”